Antigona, from Noche Flamenca, is back by popular demand! Debuting at the University of Washington World Series in 2014 and first shown at the West Presbyterian Church from 13 July to 15 August 2015, Antigona encores from 11 December 2015 to 23 January 2016. Same church.
Featuring Madrid-born Soledad Barrio, Antigona has been nominated for two Bessie Awards, the highest accolade in the New York dance world, and was recently named a 2015 honoree of Dance Magazine.
West Park Presbyterian Church: www.nocheflamenca.com
165 West 86th Street (corner Amsterdam Avenue)
New York, NY 10024
Review of the July-August 2015 show by Bonnie Rosenstock
In Sophocles’ play, Antigone (ca. 441 B.C.), in Spanish, Antigona, the burial of the dead is the impetus that sets the wheels of destruction in motion. The play struck a chord with Noche Flamenca’s principal dancer Soledad Barrio and her husband, artistic director Martín Santangelo. Barrio’s mother’s family lived through the Franco dictatorship, surviving abject hunger and civil war in which her female relatives proved their mettle. As the Antigona program notes tell us, “Antigone was not afraid to show her strength, her pain, and her passion, all attributes that are deep at the heart of flamenco.”
Oedipus kills his father, marries his mother, blinds himself when he finds out the truth, goes wandering, accompanied by his daughter Antigone. After his death, the throne of Thebes goes to his two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, who are supposed to reign every other year. When Eteocles refuses to give it up, Polyneices lays siege to the city, and they kill each other in battle. Creon, the new king, gives Eteocles a heroic burial and declares that Polyneices be left to rot on penalty of death. Antigona defies those orders and attempts to bury her brother. She tries to enlist the help of her younger sister, the beautiful, vain and obedient Ismene, who refuses.
As this is Greek tragedy, there is bound to be a high body count. When woven into the fabric of flamenco with its gypsy, Arabic and Jewish roots, the tragedy will be infused with intense song and dance.
The 90-minute, 18-member production opens with a prayer to Zeus to break the family curse. The prayer is taken from the Koran, which is reminiscent of what Sophocles wrote in his trilogy, said Santangelo. Honoring the Greek tradition of sung poetry with musical accompaniment, Santangelo re-wrote the original text (the Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald version) into lyrics, which he translated into Spanish. Santangelo and guitarists Salva de Maria and Eugenio Iglesias created the vocal interpretations, added verses and composed the music. With the aid of supertitles in English, it is very easy to follow the plotline.
Emotion needs no translation, however. Barrio’s expressive, pain-wracked face and body and indomitable spirit dominate. Whether she is dancing one of her many impassioned solos or in duets with Ismene (the remarkable Marina Elana); Haemon, her lover and son of Creon (the fabulous Juan Ogalla); or with the three wonderful women of the chorus, the indefatigable Barrio, who created most of the choreography, commands our full attention.
The singers are also extraordinary. Creon’s (Gago) strutting at his coronation, set in a bullring, is a biting burlesque of the late Spanish dictator, Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Pepe el Bocadillo (the blind seer Tiresias) and Gago are well matched for their dynamic duet in which the seer castigates Creon for betraying the gods, the dead and the living. Bocadillo’s voice is deep and strong, while Gago has a higher range, which is equally powerful.
Eteocles (Ray F. Davis) and Polyneices (Pepito Jimenez), the sons of Oedipus, dance their way to death. The strong-bodied Davis performs hip-hop and the slight-of-build Jimenez stamps out flamenco, to contrast their different characters. Davis’s choreography and execution are uninspiring, all leaping and posturing, albeit gracefully. Dance advantage goes to Jimenez.
Masks and cloth were used effectively. The play opens with a billowing black fabric that disgorges six characters wearing masks on the backs of their heads. A solo guitar interlude has Iglesias in profile, wearing a mask on the side of his face that seems to stare at the audience. And at first, the downstage dead Polyneices (Jimenez) is wearing a mask until he is surreptitiously replaced by crinkled brown cardboard which creates the illusion of decay.
The high-ceilinged intimate space at the West Park Presbyterian Church was an ideal venue. The wooden pews were fitted with soft cushions, the ceiling fans (this being the show in summer) were blowing, and we were given hand-held fans and cold bottled water. Welcome pampering for the gut-wrenching mayhem that ensued.
Bonnie used to write regularly for Guidepost. Since relocating to the States she has won three journalism awards from the prestigious New York Press Association Better Newspaper Contest for her reporting on community issues in the Village (where she lives) and Chelsea neighborhoods, New York.
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